This double Parsha of Chukat-Balak was difficult to follow and not particularly moving. Feeling uninspired, I went to My Jewish Learning for commentary and a piece by Rabbi Danielle Leshaw caught my eye because it summed up my thoughts: “The ‘Worst’ Torah Portion.”
The Israelites have been wandering, and in case you’ve missed the last couple of Parshas, they’re getting impatient. A Levite among them, Korach, descendant of Reuben (not the sandwich), rises up against Moses alongside 250 others. We’re talking chieftains and other “men of repute.”
Moses, as is a theme with Biblical figures in the Torah, gets pissed.
Something that I think gets lost in common Biblical knowledge is that someone was occupying the land of Israel prior to the Israelites. In Parsha Sh’lach, Moses dispatches spies to investigate the land before they continue their trek. The spies come back with distressing reports that frighten the Israelites to the point that they don’t want to continue the journey.
The Israelites, as they had in last week’s Parsha, complain.
The Israelites are marching onward toward the Promised Land and the Lord’s children are growing impatient. But they aren’t asking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” They’re complaining about the meal plan––all of the manna they’ve eaten. They crave meat and say they were better off in Egypt.
Something that used to annoy me about religious folks is when they cherry-pick a nice verse to make their point even when that verse is surrounded by objective craziness.
I’m going to do just that right now because I think this verse offers a pretty simple blueprint of how white people can work to be proper allies to the Black Lives Matter movement and those facing police brutality in the ongoing protests.
Just when I try to give Torah credit, admitting that I can see how people derive meaning from the text and that perhaps I’d been too snarky, this Parsha comes around.
Leviticus winds down this year with a double reading featuring Torah God at His finest. You get more obscure rules, including what to do with your slaves (spoiler: setting them free isn’t mentioned), and then Torah God pulls off the kiddy gloves.
The longer I follow the weekly Torah portion, the more likely I’m to read something between the lines and instinctually interpret a piece of text. This isn’t necessarily always a good thing. Sometimes bullshit is just bullshit, no matter how you dress it. Pulling meaning out of nothing can be a tiresome, pompous task. I did it in art class years ago when my teacher liked my work and asked me for the story behind it.